“For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do” (Romans 7:18-19).
We’ve all heard that old idiom, “The Devil made me do it…” My grandma would often reply, “He didn’t have to try too hard, now did he??” Much truth right there… The World may provide the opportunity, the Devil may indeed entice us; but it is our own Flesh that ultimately fails us every time.
How many times have we said, “I will not do this, I will not partake in that…” only to find ourselves doing the very thing we said we would not, the thing we truly did not want to do? We may believe it to be wrong… we may even agree with the Word of God, knowing that it grieves His heart when we do it. And yet we find ourselves doing that same thing again, and again.
I hate it; the struggle against the flesh. I hate failing yet again; I hate grieving God’s heart and His Spirit. “The struggle is real,” as folks are fond of saying these days… Paul warned the Believers in Galatia, “…the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would (Galatians 5:17).
Did you catch that, “ye cannot…” So start right there, with the full realization that in our flesh, we cannot do the things we would; the things pleasing to God. Paul could not, the Galatians could not; and you and I cannot…
Start there, but don’t stay there… Romans Ch. 7 is Paul’s heart cry to God, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” The answer comes in Ch. 8, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit (Romans 8:1).
The entire eighth chapter of Romans is an amazing testimony, contrasting life in the flesh versus living in the Spirit. Paul admonishes us, “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Romans 8:13-14).
But how do I do that; today, right now?!? The answer comes in the very next verse, “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15).
Cry out to God; knowing full well He will not turn away His own! There may be consequences for our sin; there may very well be chastisement… But Christ Himself has promised us, “…him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). And Paul echoes the words of Jesus, assuring us…
“What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemeth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us… (Romans 8:31-34).
One theologian explained the doctrine of Justification in this wise; “It’s just as if I had never sinned!” All my sin; past, present, and future? Yes, by the grace of God, the perfect love of a perfect Father, and the adoption into His family … All of this was made possible for us by the perfect sacrifice of God’s precious Son. And it is that knowledge and that grace that overwhelms our flesh and our carnal desires. He gives us a new heart and new desires…
Will we still fail Him? Yes, we will! Paul, and all the writers of the New Testament make it clear; while salvation is immediate, sanctification, that process of becoming like Christ, is life-long. Paul declares, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).
Perfection is in our future, but power over our old enemy, the flesh, is available now. “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). Cry out to your Heavenly Father for grace and victory over your flesh and carnal desires by the power of His Spirit that lives in every Believer. He will not deny you; God has given us this promise,
“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).
Live in that knowledge, walk in His Spirit, and God’s Word assures us that victory over all our common enemies is ours… In my next post we will explore the battle against our ultimate enemy, Satan himself.